Introduction to Xeriscaping: Water conservation, Pest-Resistance, 
Low Maintenance and Pollinator-friendly Gardenscapes

Xeriscaping is basically the use of native and drought-tolerant plants, 
hard and soft mulches, rain harvesting, water-saving watering techniques.


"The Enchanted Xeriscape"
-  7 Principles of Xeriscaping. 
A brochure provided by the New Mexico Office of the State Engineer.

You can xeriscape all levels of your garden designs
 - Baskets, planters, landscapes and raised garden beds.

The planter above contains Prickly Pear Cactus. A cold hardy perennial cactus. 
It features very pretty yellow flowers in summer.  Butterflies and bees love it.
It can be planted in-ground, as well, but i prefer an upper level of gardens.

My peanut cactus below, blooms a few times each summer, and the blooms are beautiful in person. 
Good for pollinators. These are in a big stone bowl. They'd be beautiful as part of the xeriscape garden as an accent

 

 

Xeriscaped front yard garden design
  - The plants used in this garden are cold hardy in USDA Hardiness Zone 5
(except for jasmine groundcovers)

 

Combination of gardening concepts. Xeriscaping and hardscape landscaping materials

Native plants are well-adapted to the climate, precipitation, soils, insects, and other local conditions and are consequently easier to grow than non-natives. For information on the plants native to your area, check with your local nature centers, colleges, cooperative extensions, universities, and your state department of natural resources or similar agency.

Plants should be purchased from reputable suppliers not dug from the wild. It is illegal to remove plants from public lands. 

Saves Water. 
For most of North America, over 50% of residential water used is applied to landscape and lawns. Xeriscape can reduce landscape water use by 50 - 75%.

Less Maintenance. 
Aside from occasional pruning and weeding, maintenance is minimal. Watering requirements are low, and can be met with simple irrigation systems.

No Fertilizers or Pesticides. Using plants native to your area will eliminate the need for chemical supplements. Sufficient nutrients are provided by healthy organic soil.

Improves Property Value. A good Xeriscape can raise property values which more than offset the cost of installation. Protect your landscaping investment by drought-proofing it.

Pollution Free. Fossil fuel consumption from gas mowers is minimized or eliminated with minimal turf areas. Small turf areas can be maintained with a reel mower.

Provides Wildlife Habitat. Use of native plants, shrubs and trees offer a familiar and varied habitat for local wildlife.

 

my "zen tree" (Blue Atlas Cedar) is the focal point in this landscape
Wet area marked as the future rain garden

Straw Mulch is laid down in every spot after planting.

Planted bulbs, coreopsis,  buddleia (butterfly bushes) for the butterflies,
 covered area with shredded pine bark mulch. "Planted" 1000 worms in the planned beds to 
begin their tunnelling and composting. The worm castings will be a great fertilizer.

Xeriscape principles used: removed sections of water-hungry grass, added a stone pathway 
for a feeling of flow and to connect the front door to the garden areas, the driveway, the mailbox. 
mulch with any permeous material to keep down weeds and hold in moisture.
The mulch i used matches the mulch in the foundation planting in the "before" photos earlier.
Use drought-resistant plants native to your area and for your zone. I'm using evergreens as 
groundcover, which will also keep down weeds. Hard- and soft-scaping: the flagstone and the mulch. 
Adds interest, texture and flow. Note: always have more permeous (allows water to seep and drain through) 
than non-permeous materials in your landscaping, in the interests of runoff and stormwater management.

 

This photo is march/april 2008, when the garden was completed.
. The lit up landscape looks beautiful from the front porch at night. So far, almost zero 
maintenance aside from moving plants that were getting out of bounds and cutting back.

White pea gravel adds to the Asian look of the garden.

A natural choice for xeriscapes - Cacti and Succulents

Low-Maintenance Landscape Ideas

The following article is posted with many thanks to: The Clemson University Cooperative Extension Service, South Carolina

Prepared by Karen Russ, HGIC Information Specialist, and Bob Polomski, Extension Consumer Horticulturist, Clemson University
Clemson University Cooperating with U.S. Department of Agriculture, South Carolina Counties, Extension Service, Clemson, South Carolina. 
Issued in Furtherance of Cooperative Extension Work in Agriculture and Home Economics, Acts of May 8 and June 30, 1914

 

Although there is no such thing as a maintenance-free landscape, it is possible to have an attractive landscape that is easy to care for. Good planning, design, plant selection and timely maintenance will reduce the amount of care that a landscape needs to look its best.

Planning

Planning is essential to the development of a low maintenance landscape. Extra time spent in planning will be repaid many times over in later leisure time.

Analyze Site: Begin with a thorough study of the features of your garden site. This will include site conditions, problem areas, desirable areas and views. Plot these factors on a sketch of your garden site for future reference.

Determine sun and shade patterns for all areas. Does the area receive different light at different times of day or in different seasons? Some plants do well with full morning sun but cannot handle the hotter afternoon sun.Other plants that can handle full sun in summer are subject to sunburn in winter. You will also want to locate patios, shade trees and arbors according to sun patterns.

Evaluate the maintenance needs of existing plants and structures. Identify the existing plants and determine their condition and future growth. A tree that will tremendously outgrow its present location may be easier and less expensive to remove and replace now than later.On the other hand, you may have features that are of unexpected benefit. A solid bed of moss under trees can mean that you will never need to mow that area.

Check soil drainage and storm runoff. Areas that stay wet can be lethal to many plants, and damaging to structures. Either regrade or install drain tiles to improve drainage, or plant that area only with water-tolerant plants.

The type of soil in your yard will also affect drainage rates and the types of plants that will thrive. A soil test will determine if soil amendments or fertilizers are needed.

Identify areas such as steep slopes that may cause maintenance difficulties. Lawns on steep slopes can be both high-maintenance and unsafe. Plan to replace the grass with groundcover or use terraces and retaining walls to reduce severe slope problems.

Analyze Your Needs: Determine what your needs and desires are for your yard. Families with young children will need play areas that are safe and easily watched. Plan your landscape around the kind of activities that you and your family engage in. Outdoor sports and yard games require a lot of lawn space and sturdy plantings.

Large paved areas are desirable for outside entertaining. Remember the needs of outdoor pets. Dogs can severely damage gardens unless they are confined to a separate area.

Consider the amount of time that you can afford or want to spend in yard maintenance. New gardeners should start with easier plantings than an experienced gardener would put in. Start small and simple until you know how much you like gardening.

Many people enjoy some aspects of garden care and dislike others. If you dislike spending time watering, choose only drought-tolerant plants or install an irrigation system. Those who hate to rake can choose trees with fine leaves that disappear into a lawn.

Take into account the physical abilities of the users and their ability to perform different maintenance jobs. Wheelchair access requires wide paths without overlapping plants. Raised beds are helpful for gardeners who have difficulty kneeling.

You will also need to allow room for such practical purposes as clotheslines, trashcan storage, compost and pet runs.

DESIGN FOR LOW MAINTENANCE

Many of the maintenance needs of a garden are determined by the design. By following a few simple guidelines, you can build in ease of care from the start.

Simplicity: Keep the planting design simple. Make certain each plant in the plan serves a purpose. Elaborate plantings require a great deal of attention. Simple plantings, using only a few plant species, can be both attractive and easy to manage.

Materials Selection: Some elements of a landscape need more care than others. Generally, paving such as patios and walks require the least care. They are followed by structures such as sheds and arbors, then trees, shrubs, ground covers, and lawns. Bulbs, annual and perennial flowers, and plants that need special care, such as roses, need the most maintenance. Since few of us would want a garden without any seasonal flowering plants, the maintenance impact can be reduced by planting high-care plants in limited numbers and where they will have the most impact.

Beds: Planting beds are easier to maintain than many isolated plantings. It is easier to mow around a bed with a continuous edge rather than around individual plants. Gentle curves or straight lines are both easier to care for and more pleasing than complicated curves and shapes. Avoid sharp corners or narrow strips that mowers cannot reach. Beds should be narrow enough for easy access, or be designed with steppingstones or paths through them.

Edging: Edging saves maintenance by keeping mulch in and lawn out. Steel, aluminum and plastic edgings are readily available. A very attractive edging can be constructed of pavers or brick laid flush with the lawn. This kind of edging will reduce the need for hand-trimming. While a spade cut edging will need to be re-cut seasonally, it will keep bed edges defined and neat. 

Hardscaping: Patios and decks are low-maintenance choices for high traffic areas that will not allow the successful growth of grass or other groundcover.

Sidewalks, patios and edging around beds should be low and flat, permitting a power mower to ride up over the surface and eliminating the need for hand edging. I don't do grass, so this doesn't apply to me.

Natural Areas: Some areas, especially on properties with large trees, can be allowed to return to their natural state. Woodlands are the natural condition for most areas of the state. This option will require periodic care to remove weeds.

Wildflower meadows require little supplemental irrigation once established, and generally do not require fertilization. They are an attractive alternative to the traditional lawn since they need mowing only once a year. This operation controls the growth of tree and shrub seedlings, and if done in the fall, helps to spread the wildflower seeds throughout the area.

Establishing a meadow garden will require effort initially to control weeds until the young plants or seeds are well-established. While a meadow garden need not be weed-free to be attractive, it will require occasional maintenance to control vigorous or invasive weeds.

The success of a wildflower species or mixture depends on the adaptability of the species to a given area. Be sure to choose mixes that are suited to your area.

High-moisture plants should be limited and located where they can be reached easily with a hose. I run drip irrigator hoses under my mulches. 

By using decks and patios, groundcovers and shrub beds, you can limit lawn size and still have an attractive yard. Or you can do as i do. Remove the lawn altogether, Creating a large landscape with hardscaping and mulches between beds, or plant an entire clover lawn. Clover is short, beautiful, and amazingly fragrant. You'll still have to mow once in a while, but Dutch White Clover grows only about 3 inches tall. Which is the height i like. Walking on cool clover lawns is a treat. Not pokey like grasses. Soft and smells great.

Roses and other specialty plants often require more maintenance than other types of garden plants. You may want to try to grow them only in a small area, and select tougher plants for the rest of your yard. Native plants are often recommended for easy maintenance.

 

 Plants Suitable For Xeriscaping

The plants i name are plants i have successfully used in my xeriscapes in US zones 5 and 8

Dwarf Yucca 
"Color Guard"

Grows 2-3 feet tall and wide
zones 4-10 Evergreen

No garden is complete without varying shapes and foliage color. And some evergreen. I love the look and sword shape of Yucca. There aren't many varieties of manageable size that make it through a northeast winter, but this is one of them.

Perfect for xeriscaped water-wise gardens and desertscapes. It's a variety of succulent, so water needs are minimal. Yucca has average to low water needs, and a well-drained soil. Propagate by dividing the plant. I use these as a centerpiece, specimen, or backdrop. I also use these as a backdrop for my cactus and succulent garden beds.

A very pretty green and yellow, with swordlike leaves. Perfect for the center or backdrops of my Asian gardens. Looks pretty planted in pots anywhere. Gives interest and more impact in areas where you are growing bamboo or Japanese maples. 

 Peonies
Artemisias
Asters
 Peonies
Columbine
Coreopsis
Delphinium
Echinacea
Gaillardia
Gayfeather
Rose of Sharon
Giant Hibiscus
Hydrangea
Spirea
Sweetspire
Buddleia
Foxglove
Sages
 Daisies
Sedums
Sweet William
 Lilies
Tulips and crocuses
 Hosta
  Ajuga
Chokeberry
Viburnum
lilac
Rugosa roses
Chrysanthemum
Bergenia
Shasta Daisies
 Lupines
Phlox
 Blue Star Creeper
Vinca major and minor
Veronica
Iris 
- (some irises are for bogs and wet areas, so read the labels!)
Hyacinths
Cypress  
Juniper
Cedar

General listing of plants suitable for xeriscaping in Pennsylvania, zone 5 courtesy of the USDA
You can search for xeriscape-suitable plants for your state, as well.




 

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